What's the difference between Russian Twitter bots and liberal media polls?

When I was younger, I wondered why a candidate running for office would pay to put up signs featuring the candidate's name.  Nothing else – not even the party the candidate was running with, and certainly no policy positions – would appear on the signs.  Why would people vote for a candidate knowing nothing about him except his name?

Years later, I realized that many people decide whom to vote for based not on policy positions; people decide whom to vote for based on how popular candidates are perceived to be, even looking at the views of complete strangers.

It is in that light that the Russian Facebook and Twitter bot scheme makes some sense.  If people see a story about a candidate and then see thousands of likes and hundreds of comments attached to it, they will be more open to voting for, or against, the candidate being mentioned.  While I think the Russian propaganda effort was a tiny, tiny drop in the bucket compared to the mainstream media's war on Donald Trump, I at least understand the theory behind it.

What I do not understand is why the media aren't similarly up in arms about fake news polls.  Fake news polls do exactly the same thing as fake Twitter accounts.  If you see a poll that claims that 90% of people support amnesty for "DREAMers," that's the same thing as seeing thousands of Twitter bots expressing support for one candidate or another, a false attempt to convince you that many other people take a certain political view.  Because as we all know, 90% of people do not support amnesty for "DREAMers."

And yet CBS news reports, with all seriousness, that nearly 90% of people do support amnesty for "DREAMers."

An overwhelming majority of Americans supports legal protections for certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, according to a new CBS News poll.

According to the survey, almost 9 in 10 respondents – 87 percent – said they believe that the so-called Dreamers should be allowed to remain in the U.S. if they meet certain requirements, such as working or going to school. 

Can that really be true, that all Democrats, all independents, and most Republicans support amnesty for "DREAMers"?  This is extremely unlikely.  Yet it is reported as a fact, and some people seeing this are undoubtedly swayed, thinking, "Well, if so many people are for it, maybe I should be for it, too."  It's the same mechanism that the Russian Twitter bots use to generate support.  The only difference is that CBS News is a much more authoritative source and reaches many more people than Twitter bots.

Fake liberal polls have used this technique repeatedly.  There as the famous "poll" showing that 97% of climate scientists agree that man-made global warming exists, reported by a no less authoritative source than NASA.  The idea that 97% of climate scientists agree on global warming is totally unbelievable to informed people, but so much apparent "consensus" may cause some of the uninformed to agree, too, just as if they were seeing a news story on Twitter with a thousand phony likes.

A third example: the poll saying a majority of Americans believe that boys should be able to use girls' bathrooms.

Some may say Russian efforts are different because Russians are foreigners, whereas our media are American.  I say that propaganda is propaganda regardless of its source, and the main difference between the two is that liberal propaganda is much more widespread and much more effective.

Ed Straker is the senior writer at Newsmachete.com.

Image: Elaine R. Wilson, Wikimedia Commons.

When I was younger, I wondered why a candidate running for office would pay to put up signs featuring the candidate's name.  Nothing else – not even the party the candidate was running with, and certainly no policy positions – would appear on the signs.  Why would people vote for a candidate knowing nothing about him except his name?

Years later, I realized that many people decide whom to vote for based not on policy positions; people decide whom to vote for based on how popular candidates are perceived to be, even looking at the views of complete strangers.

It is in that light that the Russian Facebook and Twitter bot scheme makes some sense.  If people see a story about a candidate and then see thousands of likes and hundreds of comments attached to it, they will be more open to voting for, or against, the candidate being mentioned.  While I think the Russian propaganda effort was a tiny, tiny drop in the bucket compared to the mainstream media's war on Donald Trump, I at least understand the theory behind it.

What I do not understand is why the media aren't similarly up in arms about fake news polls.  Fake news polls do exactly the same thing as fake Twitter accounts.  If you see a poll that claims that 90% of people support amnesty for "DREAMers," that's the same thing as seeing thousands of Twitter bots expressing support for one candidate or another, a false attempt to convince you that many other people take a certain political view.  Because as we all know, 90% of people do not support amnesty for "DREAMers."

And yet CBS news reports, with all seriousness, that nearly 90% of people do support amnesty for "DREAMers."

An overwhelming majority of Americans supports legal protections for certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, according to a new CBS News poll.

According to the survey, almost 9 in 10 respondents – 87 percent – said they believe that the so-called Dreamers should be allowed to remain in the U.S. if they meet certain requirements, such as working or going to school. 

Can that really be true, that all Democrats, all independents, and most Republicans support amnesty for "DREAMers"?  This is extremely unlikely.  Yet it is reported as a fact, and some people seeing this are undoubtedly swayed, thinking, "Well, if so many people are for it, maybe I should be for it, too."  It's the same mechanism that the Russian Twitter bots use to generate support.  The only difference is that CBS News is a much more authoritative source and reaches many more people than Twitter bots.

Fake liberal polls have used this technique repeatedly.  There as the famous "poll" showing that 97% of climate scientists agree that man-made global warming exists, reported by a no less authoritative source than NASA.  The idea that 97% of climate scientists agree on global warming is totally unbelievable to informed people, but so much apparent "consensus" may cause some of the uninformed to agree, too, just as if they were seeing a news story on Twitter with a thousand phony likes.

A third example: the poll saying a majority of Americans believe that boys should be able to use girls' bathrooms.

Some may say Russian efforts are different because Russians are foreigners, whereas our media are American.  I say that propaganda is propaganda regardless of its source, and the main difference between the two is that liberal propaganda is much more widespread and much more effective.

Ed Straker is the senior writer at Newsmachete.com.

Image: Elaine R. Wilson, Wikimedia Commons.